Icicles come and go

Icicle Forming 5

“Ice that forms in the shape of a narrow cone hanging point down. It usually forms when liquid water from a sheltered or heated source comes in contact with below-freezing air and freezes more or less rapidly as it flows.” … Continue reading

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The Pinnacle Of The Alps

The literal pinnacle of the Alps is Mt Blanc at 4,810 m (15, 782 ft), Europe’s highest mountain. We can see it when we ski and stop for our morning coffee, we see it emerging round corners when we drive. It is there, towering above the mountain ranges of the French Alps. Ever present.

I’ve visited the French Alps on many occasions, Winter, Spring and Summer but have never managed to get to a particular high point, that is until last weekend. Chamonix is an hour away by car, the Commune actually renamed itself Chamonix – Mont Blanc. you see wherever you are in Chamonix this mountain dominates the views. It dominates the activities too, with walkers, climbers and skiers. You see them al around town with their ropes and boots and goodness-knows what kit attached to them.

L'Aguille Du Midi

As a visitor to Chamonix it’s possible to get up close the grand mountain without the need of climbing ropes and huge exertion, you can take a cable car to The Aguille Du Midi (Needles). They are a few km (as the crow flies) from the summit, and somewhere someone thought it a great idea to build TWO cable car runs to this summit – the Aguille sits at a mere 3,842 m. Fancy joining us on the ride? All aboard!

You need to pick the right day, i.e not cloudy or snowy or rainy. But whatever the weather in Chamonix, there’s always a nip in the air at the top. Brrrrr.

So off we go in the first Telepherique to the mid station where we change cars to make the final journey to the top. The Col Du Midi at 3, 660m is the mid station.

You travel at remarkable speed, slightly swaying over the pilons. All the time you see the mountains and crags up close and personal.

The second stage of the journey is made in a cable car that has the longest span without pylons. Not a thought I wanted to dwell on. The car itself is packed with skiers and climbers and tourists like us. Every language seems to be spoken, there are woops and oohs and aahhhs to accompany us on our journey.

There is a palpable buzz of excitement and anticipation.

You finally reach the top, or what you think is the top and there is a series of bridges and tunnels and walkways in and around the rock, there is even a terrace for sipping a coffee, or maybe something a bit stronger is needed?

The next stage is to take a lift to the pinnacle, a quick ride and you are out in the open on a viewing platform with Mt Blanc shining in the sun.

The views from the top are truly spectacular. Nothing really prepares you for how beautiful the world looks from up high.

The clouds are below us. Chamonix a mere speck in the distance. On the horizon you can see the Matterhorn.

You simply stand and stare. You marvel at what your eyes are taking in.

You gasp at the enormity of it all. You smile, even grin at the impossibility of it all, or should that be implausability?

You watch climbers and skiers preparing to set off onto the Vallee Blanche. As your eyes adjust to the scale of what is in front of you, you see specks on the snow and glacier, there are ant sized people preparing for their day of skiing.

So tiny, so implausible against the scale of the peaks and crags.

We look north and a huge bank of clouds covers our view, we can’t see the mountain peaks of our ski resort today. Every now and then as the clouds circle around us, we catch a glimpse of a peak.

The rocks are stunning, the fissures and details can be seen clearly. These are the kind of peaks where climbers will camp out over night on a ridge to then complete their ascent.

Yes, look closely, climbers on their ascent. Words elude me!

Everywhere you look is snow and rock and rock and snow.

A few last lingering looks at what is literally in front of you – Mt Blanc

Just stunning!

I’ll leave you with my favourite shot of the day. Bon Voyage!

A footnote ~

Remember that we took Flat Ruthie Skiing? Well you know me by now, how could I not resist? She just had to come along for the ride :)

And just in case it was a bit breezy up at L’Aguille, she was tucked in safe and sound to some idiot wearing a bright red jacket and a ridiculous grin!

For extra info on Chamonix Mont Blanc

Walking as the Alpine flowers emerge

After a winter of BIG snow, taking walks in and around the mountains in the French Alps in April shows me a very different looking landscape. No longer am I greeted with a white-out with glimpses of Conifer green, when I look closely I now see the flora of the Alps emerging.

The flowers are making an appearance from the depths of winter. The last month has seen the thaw start. What were once paths and slopes that were coated with 2 metres of snow and blasted by bitter winds and freezing temperatures for 3 months, are now alive with new life.

The snow has melted to reveal brown and dead grasses and leaves. And in the space of a 2 weeks flowers are emerging on the sunny slopes. Life is literally springing forth. Colour is returning.

My winter walks are now Spring walks. The woods are alive to the sound of busy birds chattering. The crunch of snow underfoot has receded to a soft springy foot-tread. Warmth from the sun and longer days bring wild Crocus.

Water is running freely, no longer suspended and frozen. The sound of water rushing in brooks and streams competes to fill the air. Winter has almost gone, a few late snow falls and flurries replaced with sun and rain. The air has a dampness of earth and water to it. You can smell the fresh green of Spring.

My winter in the French Alps is nearly over, to mixed emotions, watching the snow recede and melt to watching the renewal of life. Home is calling, a few days skiing in Spring snow are left, some goodbyes to be said, lots of packing and sorting.

But for now, the flowers are the stars of the show.

Flat Ruthie Goes Skiing

I’m beginning to realise that Flat Ruthie is a bit of a girl-about-town/country/world, a true wandering spirit and now she can add thrill seeker and skier to her resume. She arrived safe and sound courtesy of Simpson Air – apparently a reputable carrier!

Have you met Flat Ruthie before? She lives over at Cardboard Me Travels, and is having a high old-time living the life in the blogosphere!

She’s joined us in the French Alps for a sojourn and wanted to come and play on the pistes. I have to say now that she wasn’t exactly equipped for skiing, so it’s just as well it was a warm sunny day on the slopes.  Besides she hitched a ride most of the way, I just hope she has a head for heights…..

Ruthie has already seen photos of our favourite coffee stop with Mt Blanc in the background and insisted we take her there. Besides the coffee is good!

It’s a couple of chairs and a ski to get there and sadly it was a bit cloudy but we could just see Mt Blanc, besides Ruthie got to enjoy the sun. And no I’m not joining her in one of those chairs it’s only 10.30 in the morning, if I get comfy now we’ll never move. Ruthie, come on, get your skis on!

I know you are not great at getting on and of the ski chairs Ruthie, but we’re holding onto you.

Look another view Ruthie, you see why it’s worth the effort now? You can see down the valley towards Lac Leman, I know the rest of the world calls it Lake Geneva, whatever its name the view is good. Come on Ruthie we’ve got some skiing to do – hold on tight!

OK I know it’s not the first thing you think of when skiing, but crossing the bridge on skis is the only way we can get across this ravine, you can hear the rushing water of the Spring melt.

It’s a bit cool, the sun is deceptive isn’t it Ruthie, a bit more of a ski and we can stop again, come on Ruthie show us how you ski.

I know it’s a Red Piste Ruthie but hold on, I’m going extra slow and carefully, you are a precious passenger.

Ruthie, I promise I’ll put some turns in, I won’t head straight downhill we’ll go nice and gently. Besides I don’t want to fall again, I don’t want the xrays, sling and pain!!

Ok, ok, you want to rest up? How about these 2 magic words – Bar and Creperie?

See that’s better isn’t it! You know Ruthie, we’ve got to know these mountains pretty well this winter and this is one of our favourite places to stop – they do the best Crepes on the mountain and yes ok, just the one demi-pression.

I hope you have worked up an appetite these crepe are good and hearty.

I told you they were good and no you are not going to rest up here ALL day, we’ve got to get a move on, the snow is warming up now and it’s getting trickier. No Ruthie as much as you want to hitch a ride we are not going down the mountain in one of those, they are for emergencies and having a full stomach is not an emergency!

Come on girl get those ski’s on, we’ll do some gentle Blues after lunch, besides you need to work off that food!

Come on a bit more skiing and we’ll get you down the mountain safe and sound.

I tell you what let’s skip the last run down to the village and hop in a Bubble. No Ruthie not a literal bubble, it’s just what we call a Tele-cabine.

Yes I remember the beginning of the James Bond film where Jaws tries to climb up the cable and then try and tear the cable with his teeth. No I haven’t seen James Bond or his nemesis Jaws in resort – ever!

Don’t worry it’s fun, you get to see the village and across the mountains. I tell you what how about a quiet beer when we get back. What you want to go out and “expereince”  apres-ski? You are kidding now aren’t you Ruthie? Ruthie? We’ve got other trips planned. RUTHIE !!!

A week in the French Alps ~ in photos

We returned to our French mountains last week and these are the images that have caught my eye.

We came back to see masks adorning the walls of the chaplet, our landlords had had a party.

Climbing ropes hanging neatly up on a wall waiting for the snow to melt and summer.

A visit to see friends, a 2 hour drive across, over, round and under the mountains

Sitting in the sun, the temperatures have risen dramatically to highs of 14 degrees.

A ride up and down a ski chairlift, as a foot passenger.

A carrot salad with an asian style vinaigrette dressing.

Tree branches against a blue sky.

Firewood stacked at angles.

My red ski trousers hanging up, waiting for me get back on my skis and to lose a couple of more pounds to fit back into them comfortably.

A sunset across the alps.

Jumbly Nepotism

It’s all jumbly in here today.

You see I know and like gardening, I can take the odd decent photo, I can cook up a scratch meal, and occasionally I manage to ski reasonably well. But when it comes to writing it all down, some days fail me. It’s all a bit of a jumble. Trying to clear out and order and organise thoughts and words.

Noodle awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award. We think Noddle is a star, and not just because she likes what she reads here. I’m looking forward to her promised post about The Noodle Cupboard!

There are rules for the Versatile Blogger Award. (1) I must list 7 random things about myself that you don’t know and (2) nominate 10 bloggers to receive the award.

Here goes:

  1. I have dyed my hair many colours over the years, memorable colours include  pink and blue. Not at the same time though.
  2. I’m double jointed – handy for when you want to reach something but can’t be bothered to move.
  3. I’m a lifelong Manchester United fan, it’s where I grew up and that includes having worked for Arsenal FC (oh the shame!)
  4. I love day dreaming, if I could write that on my CV, I would.
  5. I’m a bit of a techie geek, only mildly in comparison to some of the people I’ve worked with over the years, but none-the-less I’m a geeky IT girl
  6. I’m allergic to all things dairy. Always have been, probably always will be. And this is from someone who was brought up on whole milk! Sometimes the reaction is strong, other times I can get away with it. Generally, if I avoid processed dairy products, milk and cream I can nibble and munch on cheese. Phew!
  7. We used to work on the music festivals – Glastonbury, Womad, and the Big Chill on a food stall serving Trinidadian food. A long story for another day. For now though I’ll say that I miss the music festivals – the buzz, the beauty, the chaos, the people, the party, oh and the music!

Now awards are odd things, you feel warm and special for being noticed, recognised even. And then it dawns on you that you have to pass the award on. And this is where I struggle. How do I choose? Sounds like a bit of a cliché?  Read on. There are so many great blogs out there, most of them seem to already have this award so it narrows my choices down. But that’s not what I’m struggling with. What is niggling me is what if I miss someone out? How mean would I feel? Maybe it’s the Catholic guilt coming out in me – bearing in mind I’m not a Catholic but I seem to have the famous guilt that comes attached to that particular brand.

I just worry about the “responsibility” of it all. Oooph! Then I have to remind myself that this is a hobby, a pleasure. Not a make or break life changing decsion. But sometimes the words fail me. I stumble around, muttering, half forming words, forgetting others as soon as I try to write them down. You see it’s all a bit of a jumble in this head of mine. That’s probably why the blog is Jumbly – a mix of bits and bobs, scatterings from here and there. No cohesive collection to be found.

In fact I like my new word Jumbly. I’m going to adopt it.

But back to the task in hand. I need to nominate and award other bloggers. So I need to un-jumble. Trying to describe why I like them and why I think you might is tricky. Could you just accept some simple words that describes their blogs rather too literally as opposed to me explaining myself? I hope so.

  1. Bishop - A gardener and grower in Florida. But more than that, as any good blogger does he comments on life and all that goes around. Put simply it’s one of my favourite reads.
  2. PlateandPlanet – healthy food and healthy planet is her motto. She dishes up some great stuff and always makes me stop and think.
  3. Jared over at LickTheFridge  - I hope you like this blog as much as I do. Funny doesn’t do it justice. Nor does droll. Or thought provoking. Go over and have a read, As he says it’s about “irreverence for myself and my readers”.
  4. Deb from East of Eden – writes about life and food, all woven around Steinbeck’s Salinas valley. A lovely read, it comes with great photos and she weaves a story from Steinbeck quotes. Clever and unique.
  5. Dadirridreaming  - a wonderful blogger who posts about her life, giving us glimpses into her garden, the wildlife, her yoga and her view of the world from Australia .
  6. Stacey of DownToEarthDigs will I’m sure entertain you with her garden and her photography.

So as opposed to the 10 I’m meant to dish you up here’s 6 special treats for you to read.

Ski run

And then we get onto the nepotism part. What’s nepotism got to do with Jumbly? Well, as I’ve said it’s a jumble in here and then there is Mr Promenade or rather in his current guise, Mountain Man. You see he is blogging too. We have his and her’s blogs :) He’s a relatively new kid on the blogging block, so could I be cheeky and give him a mention?  He’s the RealSnowReport which basically means he writes and photographs what’s happening here in the French Alps on and off piste. He also muses a lot, occasionally rambles, all with a soupcon of humour. I’ll fess up, he took today’s snowy pictures :) Pop in if you like. I think he’s a star, but then I know I’m biaised.

Right, back to the daydreaming :)